The typical way of writing a book is by plotting and laying an outline that describes what will happen in different chapters and sub-chapters. The biggest advantage of writing with a plan on the board is that the skeleton is already set up and all that remains is filling in the meat. Many writers find this approach easier, predictable and fast when the planning has been done right. But some writers have found this a bit restricting in creativity and the versatility of characters.
Perhaps a balance between the two approaches would be to plot without going into too much planning. This is much like planning a road trip by saying you want to head from New York to Miami but leaving the route plan open. You could take the shortest route on the interstate, or take a more circuitous route going west then south. How can a writer do this in a book?
Keep an open mind
The whole point of little planning is so that you can move with the flow. However, this is a case of not having your cake and eating it. You will have the freedom to try out several ideas but be prepared for more editing.
You let the narrative forces take over and go along with whatever looks like a good idea. You can always revisit ‘bad’ ideas. Writers who have perfected this art say this kind of approach helps develop a more critical eye for good and bad writing ideas.
Learn to go down rabbit holes
Rabbit trails are very intriguing; they can branch off when you least expect. Following your rabbit trail of ideas keeps ideas flowing forward at every fork in the trail. If you feel that an idea is going nowhere, you can always go back to the previous fork and start down another trail.
Make good use of beta readers
The only downside to writing without a plan is that your ideas need a higher level of validation. This is where a well-developed network of beta readers comes in. Remember that you have adopted a freer hand in editing so don’t be afraid to wipe out entire chapters when they don’t make the cut. Continuous editing can be a mantra when you are working without a plan.
It is very much possible to start plotting without planning every little detail. The creative independence of this approach gives you a more exciting journey in writing the book. You eventually get to your destination albeit by a route you never expected.
Ask your writer friends to help
Having done this a bunch of times, I know that quite often brains don’t like to work. So getting someone to take a quick look at what you have might be exactly what you need. Another set of eyes might ask you a question on something you have written which sparks ideas for further on in the story!
How do you plot your stories? Let me know in the comments!